Sunday, August 17, 2014

Astoria and the mighty Columbia River

August 10- 15, 2014:

The ride from Pacific Beach, Washington to Warrenton, Oregon was mostly on route 101 south on a scenic two lane highway through logging country.  It was not a relaxing ride, lots of dips and curves that move the RV all over the road and lots of traffic, including lots and lots of RV's.  I had to run a little harder/ faster than I was comfortable doing to go with the flow and not create a backup behind me.  It's getting super crowded in the RV World these days, some people need to stay home.  I can't wait for September when the crowds should taper off a little. 
The ride into Astoria a pretty fantastic sight, the Columbia River is mind boggling to start, then you see amazing bridge across the river and the sight of Astoria on the hillside with cruise ships and cargo ships coming into the port. We then took a second bridge across Youngs Bay to Warrenton where our destination, the "Kampers West Kampground" is located.

The campground, it was really tight, could hear a guy in a
tent next door snoring at night !

Beautiful fish cleaning setup at the campground

We had tried to get reservations at a couple of other large sized area RV campgrounds, (like the Ft Stevens State Park with its 500 campsites), but they were totally booked.  We sort of lucked out getting 5 nights here at Kampers West where there was only one campsite available.  Unbeknownst to us, the Salmon are running again and this place is filled to the brim with fishermen.  This is the third time in the last year that we have stumbled into a place filled with Salmon fishermen and we have yet to eat any of it ? 

I explore Astoria seriously on Monday, I even go up the 164 steps to the top of the "Astoria Column".  It is an amazing structure with historic murals painted on the outside spiraling from the bottom to the top.

The Astoria Column

Close up of the murals

They sell these balsa wood planes to throw off from the top

Top of the column

A plane in flight, they sometimes travel far down the hill
It was a sunny, clear day so I concentrated on Astoria's outside stuff as the forecast for the next two days is cloudy and rainy.  I walked the old town area along Commercial Street, did much of the River walk area, had lunch at the "Fort George Brewery" and took in many other attractions.  The historic downtown still has a rustic flair to it, all small locally owned stores, (no chains) and has not been gentrified much yet.  Hopefully, they can avoid that.  My only complaint is there is virtually no music scene which I don't understand ?

The Astoria - Megler Bridge is 4.1 miles long and spans
the Columbia River

One of several touching memorials at
the Maritime Memorial on Astoria's waterfront

The memorial is similar to the famous Vietnam Memorial

The Fort George Brewery

The Liberty Theater in Astoria

The Flavel House, built by Captan Flavel, an enterprising River
Pilot who prospered in Astoria

The Astoria trolley

Mary Todd's Workers Bar & Grill is a must see in Astoria

A wood carving at the entrance to Astoria

Astoria clown car, the car drives down the street with
the back end leading, note the tailpipe coming out the
rear and the tow hitch.  We saw it on the street in motion.  

A mural along the Astoria waterfront

A ship anchored out in the channel at dusk

Lewis and Clark traveling down the Columbia River passed Astoria in 1805 and completed their journey to the Pacific Ocean a few miles away.  John Jacob Astor then established the settlement of Astoria in 1811 as the western terminus of his Hudson Bay Company.  This makes Astoria the oldest settlement east of the Mississippi.  The English were also in the area looking to add it to their empire and the Russians were migrating south.  The native Indians who had lived here for thousands of years suddenly found themselves caught in the middle. 

I am able to get some TV reception here and the listen to the sad reports of Robin Williams death. I was hooked on him as a serious actor after watching him in the Dead Poets Society, one of my favorite movies of all time.

We went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria on Tuesday, absolutely one of the best museums ever !  This is the place to see if you want to learn about the Columbia River, the history of the area, the boats and the fishing industry.  There is also a 3D movie, Sea Rex, about the evolution of aquatic life on Earth, throughout all the geologic time periods.  It was really well done and the 3D affects were so real, small children up front were reaching out to touch the fish.

US Coast Guard vessel and Light ship Columbia

Lots of shipwrecks at the Astoria bar, one of the most dangerous
waterways in the world

Interior of the Maritime Museum

These Canons were found on a beach a few years ago from
a long ago shipwreck of the "Shark"

A model of the "Shark"

Astoria Salmon canneries were numerous

We then went to Pier 39 on the river, had lunch at the Rouge Ale's Public House.  They have a fantastic view of the river and it has a wonderful rustic brewery attitude.  Great beer label art and brew names with a revolutionary theme. They have a number of locations in Oregon and are a very cool operation with their own farms to grow their ingredients.  Also an  extremely cool entertaining web site.  They are housed on a portion of Pier 39 that was formerly the "Bumble Bee Salmon Cannery".  The Cannery is no more, but there is a small museum there with many relics, photos and artifacts from the old cannery days.

Pier 39, the old Bumble Salmon Cannery, now more famous
for the Rouge Ale House

A view of the cannery back in the day

The cannery museum 

I try a most highly rated breakfast place in Warrenton, (not necessary to name) and order a scrambler type dish that is usually a favorite of mine.  Big mistake, it was horrible in every way and expensive to boot.  I don't think they know how to do breakfast here, they need some good old "Jersey Diners".  It's all Espresso here, same as Washington state, you have your Espresso and you're set to go for the day.  Actually, the restaurant was nice and clean, the service was good, just don't order the the scrambler sounding dish, everything else is probably great. 

A rainy day forced us to spend some time researching RV campgrounds, to find a place to stay for the weekend and then another place near Portland for next week.  Weekends seem to be booked solid at the popular spots along the coast so you must go to the "out of the way" places or those that are a bit rough, poorly rated.

It is mandatory when here Theyto visit the "Lewis and Clark National Historical Park" visitor's center with its very interesting exhibits and movie.  There is so much stuff in this area on Lewis and Clark, it's a bit crazy.  I wonder what they would think if they came back ?  They have a reconstructed "Fort Clatsop" which is where the expedition wintered.  We listened to a very entertaining, interesting ranger talk there about the hardships the expedition endured to build the fort, find food, make their clothing and prepare for the return trip east without much of anything left to trade with the indians.  They would not have succeeded without help from the native Indians, they knew this from the start and took trade items for such purpose.  How different things might have turned out if the Indians were not so helpful ?

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, route of the
expedition across the country

Museum exhibits

Replica of Fort Clatsop where the expedition wintered

The wild surf on the Pacific coast, I'm happy for the Jetty

Another day and a ride south on route 101 to the town of Seaside where we parked and then walked to the beach front.  There is a definite beach town feel to the place, lots of tourist shops, surf shops, restaurants, amusement arcades and even a carousel.  A bit more Jersey shore feel to it, but true be told falls way short of the boardwalk at Seaside Park, New Jersey.  The fog unfortunately was so dense that we couldn't really see much of the beach or ocean.

Original Seaside looked like this

Lewis and Clark at Seaside

Great Kite shop in Seaside

We then continued south to Canon Beach which had more of a "beach resort" feel to it.  We walked the beach to see the much photgraphed Haystack Rock just off shore.  The fog had lifted only partially giving it more of a wild monochrome appearance that often shows more character than a clear blue sky.  The surf was pounding against the rocks sending huge sprays into the air, the sea birds were swirling overhead, the air was misty wet and the distant views were veiled in fog.

Haystack Rock on Canon Beach

Holding hands on the beach

Waves pounding the rocks

Beautiful Rode Hips

We wanted to stay here a few more days, but no vacancies, so we are off again heading southeast along the Columbia River to the town of Scappoose, Oregon where we do have a reservation through the weekend. 

Roll on Columbia;
Twinkles and Slick

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